Osama bin Laden's words trace evolution of a terrorist

SUN JOURNAL

September 23, 2001|By SCOTT SHANE | SCOTT SHANE,SUN STAFF

Though he operates from hideouts in the mountains of Afghanistan, suspected terrorist plotter and financier Osama bin Laden is a media-savvy man.

He has become hugely popular in the Muslim world, shaping his image as a defender of Islam in statements that call on Muslims to wage holy war against the United States.

Bin Laden's pronouncements, in Arabic that specialists describe as eloquent and often poetic, are a mix of Quran citations, theological arguments, historical references and political declarations. They range widely across geography and history, lumping U.S. policy with the Crusades and discussing conflicts in such diverse places as Chechnya, Kashmir, Bosnia and the Philippines as if they are part of a single, unified war.

Often there are excursions into the internal politics of Saudi Arabia, bin Laden's native land, which stripped him of citizenship in 1994.

His statements during the past eight years trace his evolution from guerrilla fighter against the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan to symbolic leader of militant Islamic terrorism worldwide.

"When the [Soviet] invasion of Afghanistan started, I was enraged and went there at once -- I arrived within days, before the end of 1979. Yes, I fought there, but my fellow Muslims did much more than I. Many of them died, and I am still alive. ... No, I was never afraid of death. As Muslims, we believe that when we die, we go to heaven. Before a battle, God sends us seqina, tranquillity.

"Once I was only 30 meters from the Russians and they were trying to capture me. I was under bombardment, but I was so peaceful in my heart that I fell asleep. This experience has been written about in our earliest books. I saw a 120 mm mortar shell land in front of me, but it did not blow up. Four more bombs were dropped from a Russian plane on our headquarters but they did not explode. We beat the Soviet Union. The Russians fled."

"What I lived in two years there, I could not have lived in a hundred years elsewhere."

1993 interview with Robert Fisk of The Independent, reportedly the first he gave to a Western journalist

"To counter these atheist Russians, the Saudis chose me as their representative in Afghanistan. ... For us, the idea was not to get involved more than necessary in the fight against the Russians, which was the business of the Americans, but rather to show our solidarity with our Islamist brothers. I discovered that it was not enough to fight in Afghanistan, but that we had to fight on all fronts against Communist or Western oppression. The urgent thing was communism, but the next target was America."

1995 unpublished interview with a French journalist, from www.pbs.org

"Our country [Saudi Arabia] has become an American colony. ...What happened in Riyadh and [Dhahran] when 24 Americans were killed in two bombings is clear evidence of the huge anger of Saudi people against America. The Saudis now know their real enemy is America.

"We as Muslims have a strong feeling that binds us together. ...We feel for our brothers in Palestine and Lebanon. The explosion at Khobar [Saudi Arabia] did not come as a direct result of American occupation but as a result of American behavior against Muslims. ...When 60 Jews are killed inside Palestine in suicide bombings earlier this year, all the world gathers within seven days to criticize this action, while the deaths of 600,000 Iraqi children after U.N. sanctions were placed on Iraq did not receive the same reaction. Killing those Iraqi children is a crusade against Islam. We, as Muslims, do not like the Iraqi regime, but we think that the Iraqi people and their children are our brothers and we care about their future."

1996 interview with The Independent

"It should not be hidden from you that the people of Islam has suffered from aggression, iniquity and injustice imposed on them by the Zionist-Crusaders alliance and their collaborators; to the extent that the Muslims' blood became the cheapest and their wealth as loot in the hands of the enemies. Their blood was spilled in Palestine and Iraq. The horrifying pictures of the massacre at Qana in Lebanon are still fresh in our memory. Massacres in Tajikistan, Burma, Kashmir, Assam [in India], the Philippines. ...Ogadin [in Ethiopia], Somalia, Eritrea, Chechnya and in Bosnia-Herzegovina took place, massacres that send shivers in the body and shake the conscience.

"Muslims burn with anger at America. ... There is no more important duty than pushing the American enemy out of the holy land. ... The presence of the U.S.A. Crusader military forces on land, sea and air of the states of the Islamic Gulf is the greatest danger threatening the largest oil reserve in the world. ... Due to the imbalance of power between our armed forces and the enemy forces, a suitable means of fighting must be adopted, i.e. using fast-moving, light forces that work under complete secrecy. In other words, to initiate a guerrilla war, where the sons of the nation, and not the military forces, take part in it.

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